Skip to main content

Inequality Drives You Mad

Having watched the Election 2010 debate on TV last night, there remains no doubt in my mind that all three of the major UK parties are still wedded to economically illiterate neo-liberal policies - from which they can only be briefly and reluctantly budged, and to which they will revert as soon as the threat of economic armageddon recedes far enough for them to turn on the feel-good rhetoric again. In an extract from his new book "Ill Fares the Land" in the latest New York Review of Books, Tony Judt accuses the Left of a total failure of nerve on both sides of the Atlantic:
"Social democrats today are defensive and apologetic. Critics who claim that the European model is too expensive or economically inefficient have been allowed to pass unchallenged. And yet, the welfare state is as popular as ever with its beneficiaries: nowhere in Europe is there a constituency for abolishing public health services, ending free or subsidized education, or reducing public provision of transport and other essential services."   
The whole article is well worth reading (like everything Judt writes), but what struck me most forcibly was a sequence of graphs that accompany the piece. Assuming that you can read a graph, these will tell you everything you need to know about the evil effects of free-market dogma on crime, general and mental health, with the USA wallowing deep down in the mud and the UK poised to join them. Read them and weep:

FOOTNOTE: Tony Judt is asking for contributions in aid of research into the fatal motor neuron disease ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or Lou Gehrig's Disease) from which he suffers. You can contribute via the Move for ALS website.

Comments

  1. I note the absence of Japan on the first graph and its position on the others. I did hear of a description of Japan as being the world's most successful communist country. It has an economy with a relatively large degree of central planning and is very egalitarian (once you remove a small number of very rich people from the reckoning).

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

A New Age of Sabotage

I haven't posted much recently because every time I think of something to say, the extraordinary pace of events makes it sound lame by the next morning: New York under water, Obama re-elected, News International in the dock, rockets falling on Tel Aviv, and that's even before we reach the Mayan apocalypse on Dec 21. However I've finally plucked up courage to wade into the torrent of the miraculous-horrific thanks to a fortunate discovery on the web. In this previous post I confessed an increasing interest in the radical Norwegian-American economist Thorstein Veblen, but that interest was quite narrowly based on reading only three of his works, namely The Theory of the Leisure Class, The Theory of Business Enterprise and his important essay The Socialist Economics of Karl Marx and His Followers. This wasn't just due to laziness but to the difficulty of obtaining many of Veblen's books, which have been out of print for a long time.

But I re-read Veblen's Wikiped…

Trump of Doom?

Thought for the day. The type of economy we call social democracy depended for its success on a willingness of the majority of the population to cooperate as well as compete with one another, giving up a portion of their income in taxes to be spent on various public goods like medicine, education and transport. If the population loses its willingness to make these reasonable sacrifices then it becomes impossible to maintain a social democracy.

The UK population was so willing for at least 30 years following WWII, to a large extent thanks to the experience of necessary cooperation among the generation who fought that war. But over the *last* 30+ years that willingness has been steadily eroded by many factors, including (but by no means confined to): greater individualism stemming from precisely the relative affluence and economic freedom that post-war social democracy conferred; successive economic crises (some related to oil, some to financial recklessness); industrial decline, outsou…

Social Democracy Uber Alles

The outcry over the revoking of Uber's London licence shows that the service it provides is popular, and it's unquestionably a significant, innovative use of new technology to improve transport. On the other hand the outcry from drivers about lack of benefits and job security show that the application of technology is being used (not uncommonly) both to increase exploitation of the labour force and to flout legal regulation designed to protect labour and customers. The outcry of Black Cab drivers against Uber ignores the fact that people flocked to Uber not merely for convenience (though that is considerable) but because Black Cabs had priced themselves out of the market with the last big price hike.

Put all this together and it's clear that all the parties need to get together and find a workable solution, which is highly unlikely to happen because of the vastly different political atmospheres between UK and USA, and a general lack of adult leadership on both sides. I ca…